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Pensions funds are reconsidering investments in gun manufactures

By Michael Gormley

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 20 2012 7:03 p.m. MST

The company said it saw a "surge" of sales in 2009, Obama's first year in office. FBI background checks are a rough proxy for gun sales. So far this year, the agency has already done 16.8 million, double the number it performed in 2003.

Sales of Smith & Wesson modern sporting rifles more than doubled to $61.3 million in the most recent quarter. The company announced record sales for the second quarter of $136.6 million, up 48 percent from a year ago.

Some public fund investors said the tragedy is forcing them to rethink where they put their money.

Matthew Sweeney, spokesman for New York City Comptroller John Liu, said the city is reviewing its holdings and "aggressively exploring all options," including dumping the investments.

He advises the pension fund that covers city employees other than teachers, including police, firefighters and other city workers. New York City Mayor Bloomberg has for years been one of the nation's loudest advocates for tighter gun control laws.

The city's pension funds, worth $127.8 billion, have nearly $18 million invested in Brazilian gun maker Forjas Taurus, which sells the Taurus line of firearms in the U.S.; nearly $14 million in Olin Corp; $2 million in Sturm Ruger; and $1.7 million in Smith & Wesson.

Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier said the state's $23 billion pension fund includes one direct link to a weapons manufacturer. It has stocks and bonds worth about $900,000 in Alliant Tech Systems, an aerospace defense company that supplies ammunition to law enforcement and commercial customers.

"My interest is ensuring that any company in which Connecticut pension funds are invested conducts its business consistent with our standards for responsible corporate citizenship — which includes considerations of public safety and the well-being of our children," she said in a statement.

South Dakota holds no stock in firearms makers, but state Investment Officer Matt Clark said the state has no specific guidelines that would "impose our moral judgment over society's."

Funds do have some latitude, however. In the past, they have reduced investment in tobacco companies, divested from energy companies doing business with Iran after reports of genocide or dropped companies in South Africa when the country was segregated under apartheid.

When pension funds divest, fund managers give up the chance to change companies from within. DiNapoli, for example, has used his investment in Chevron Corp. to urge the company to settle an $18 billion court claim for environmental damage in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, which he said protected shareholders from risky company behavior.

Full divestment is rare and takes time. New York's divestment in Iran took two years.

Some states — including Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota and New Jersey — have no gun makers in their pension portfolios or they have little invested. Others, like Tennessee, leave investment decisions to index funds.

And some states are content to leave their investments alone, such as Arkansas and Texas.

In Texas, the teachers' fund has a "small percent" of its $112 billion in firearms manufacturers. The fund constantly reviews all investments, but no special review is under way because of the shooting.

Fund spokesman Howard Goldman said it would be difficult if not impossible to fulfill the fund's obligations "while managing portfolios that reflect the social concerns of all of our shareholders."

Associated Press writers Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa.; Chet Brokaw in Sioux Falls, S.D.; James MacPherson in Bismarck, N.D.; Joshua Freed in Minneapolis; Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Texas; Timothy Rogers in Raleigh, N.C.; Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, N.J.; Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tenn.; Jack Elliott in Jackson, Miss.; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Fla.; Chuck Bartles in Little Rock, Ark.; and Brock Vergakis in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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